Don’t Do Digital, just Do.

There is a thing that keeps bugging me, and it’s this: Until we stop thinking about digital as a discrete thing in our news operations, our mindsets, cultures and workflows will never really change.

If we just stop thinking that digital is a special thing with differing needs to print, it would be a massive step forward in newsroom change.
That point in itself is a shift for me: A few years ago I would have said that the way to go was to treat digital as a startup – hothouse a team, give it growing time, be attentive to it.
I changed my mind because things have changed. We don’t need to hothouse digital because we should be over that now.
Doing Digital is so 2008, baby.

Making a special effort to Do Digital is the multimedia equivalent of breathing in and out – it only feels weird when you consciously focus on what you’re doing.
Talk about content, not platform, and think about how that raw content should best be dealt with. It’s three years since I wrote a piece about about throwing away the flatplan/dummy/book/whatever, and I still say it’s the way to go. We need to stop obsessing over physical pages and obsess over content instead.

Personally, I think managers have a responsibility to drag everyone they can with them in this thinking; let the devil take the hindmost. Want career progression? Then be progressive.
The most important act of leadership any manager can do, to protect their team and ensure people have a career ahead of them, is steer them towards things that currently fall by the wayside…
…because people are busy
…because people are writing for the paper and there’s a deadline on a Physical Thing, as opposed to online where no one will notice if a story isn’t up immediately*
…because the interview is happening over the phone and a video is impossible
…because REASONS

There are a million excuses, but no good reasons.

* They notice

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Convergence thoughts

I am heartily sick of people who put finger-quotes around the word Convergence when they’re talking about media.
It’s becoming a pejorative term when, as far as I can see, it’s one of the opportunities that may mean newspapers have a hope of prosperity in future.
There are so many definitions for the word but my favourite – and the one I think is most optimistic – states that convergence is when more “is entering a given area than is leaving at that level”. Apply that description to newspapers for a moment: More money, more advertising, more readers – everything we want to ensure our survival is captured in this definition of a word some executives can’t even bring themselves to utter without a self-deprecating little shrug.
But now I’m seriously starting to think that maybe convergence should be about more than how we mash technologies together to tell stories.
Maybe it should be about how we converge with other external sources to tell those stories – and I’m thinking here of the people within our readership reach who blog, Tweet, post on Seesmic or have podcasts.
The Daily Post is about to start co-hosting a blog with The Bluecoat gallery in Liverpool – their CEO is going to put his blog on our site and become an LDP blogger while maintaining his own over at Bluecoat. And I think that’s great; it’s not about unique content, it’s about content people value – and I know he’s going to be a really popular blogger on our site while we drive traffic over to The Bluecoat at the same time. And why shouldn’t we support each other? We’re both city businesses (very old city businesses) trying to connect with a changing world.
If newspapers see their remoteness as a badge of integrity and believe impartiality is maintained by observing and never participating, then we may as well give up and go home now. If we’re not prepared to give more of ourselves – and by that I don’t mean free sausage rolls offers – and allow readers to have more involvement in a product that is, after all, produced for them, then we are downsizing our way to oblivion.
Convergence, as far as I’m concerned, is essential. And if I’m to entrenched to grasp how a marriage of networks – social or technological – can benefit the industry that I love (and that pays my wages) then maybe it’s not something I should be a part of any more.